Welcome to the Real World, Neo

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I’ll admit it – I love”The Matrix” (not the sequels as much as the original).  It can be used in so many ways to explain technologies and trends.  I am not talking about the aesthetics of “bullet time”, nor whether it could possibly exist.  I am talking about the actual world where the movie takes place.  Sure, there are plenty other metaphors for life as well, but the one that interests me the most is how that alternate universe explains so well where we are going today with our technologies.

Let’s say that Web 1.0 was about the infrastructure.  We put together the servers, we built the connections, we laid the “pipes”, and we created an amazing infrastructure to connect virtually everyone in this world to everyone else.  We, in Thomas L Friedman’s words, flattened the world. Problem was, we did not know what to do with it.  Sure, we had the standard ecommerce applications, some self-service solutions, interactive connection to easy applications, we created and used static, non-leveraged content.  The basics that you would expect to find in any other connected world.  Except for a sense of community, smarts, and automation. The “sharing” was not real, it was just accessing some static content (or partially dynamic static content) via a dumb-down interface.  Better than what we had, but not the best.  In Matrix-terms, this were the individual machines that were plotting to take over the world.

Now, let’s fast forward to Web 2.0.  There are lots of definitions out there for Web 2.0 – almost as many as startups trying to make it in it. Tim O’Reilly is credited with coining the term and describing it initially.  We use lots of new technologies, new models, and new applications.  Web 2.0 is about leveraging the infrastructure.  We are moving away from the static content, come-and-find-me model we created in Web 1.0 and we are creating dynamic applications, using distributed architecture models, dynamic and useful content, access and integration levels never before used or seen.  We are, in short, using the network.  Making the network become the application, and the content itself.  We are, in matrix-terms, beginning to create the matrix itself.  Alas, we still don’t’ have intelligence built into the system to self-regulate, auto-manage, or self-organize.  Yet, Web 2.0 (and Enterprise 2.0 by extension) is about using content to make the infrastructure useful.

Of course, there is a futuristic state of the world that is Web 3.0.  No, it is not defined anywhere that I know, nor am I creating a new term (come on, I just grew the version number by one, how hard is that to do).  I am presenting my version of a likely model we will use in the future of the Internet, applications, content – and how we interact with them and each other.  We built an infrastructure, we created the content to populate it – now we are making it useful.  Truly useful.  We are talking about self-organizing systems, ultimate automation, self-categorization – even intent-driven systems (Michael Maoz and I wrote about this back in the Gartner days).  Think the way computers worked in “Star Wars”, think the way the Matrix operates.  A neural network that realizes there is no corner to far-fetched, no content unusable, no connection impossible.  This – Web 3.0 – is the core of the Matrix.

Now, I am not proclaiming that we are all going to be batteries in 20-25 years or any time after that.  But, the model fits well to where we are taking our technology world.  As we continue to evolve, you will see some of the things we thought impossible even five years ago become reality.  Self-managing, automated, independent systems that perform flawlessly without us noticing them.  Secret Customer Service (another concept I worked on while at Gartner) finally emerges.  Self-organizing, dynamic communities form ad-hoc to tackle each and every problem.  Computers become more independent, and we become more advanced as a group.  We become a global tribe that has its own heartbeat, and interacts with technology to simplify our lives.

Sounds interesting? Welcome to the real world – you.